In the same way that the whole world, allegedly, loves a lover, I am mad for a love triangle. Therefore, I was in a state of frenzy about seeing Take This Waltz that was tantamount to, I imagine, Joan Crawford’s when she found herself doing wardrobe tests for Berserk!. Furthermore, Waltz’s writer/director, Sarah Polley, gave one of the best performances that I have ever seen, in the film My Life Without Me. This is the wretched tale of a young woman who finds out she’s terminally ill and decides not to tell anyone about it – a decision at which I marvelled, given that, were I in that situation, I would tell anyone who would listen, so that I could not only garner maximum sympathy, but immediately stop working and lie in bed all day, ringing a little bell for attention. Polley’s other film as a director, Away from Her, I have seen only in a sense. That is, I saw it as a United Airlines in-flight movie, which meant that it was like listening to a ‘wireless’ during an air raid, with a picture that was so blizzard-y that they might as well have been showing Doctor Zhivago.
While seeing Take This Waltz at an actual cinema was an advance in one way, in another it was not, as it meant that, as usual, I had to sit through that advertisement featuring a woman who seems to have lost a lot of superannuation, and alleges that she had thought that when she retired, she’d have ‘more time watching the grandkids, not the sharemarket’. She is visibly upset about this, even though, I would argue, she is probably going to get far more tangible benefit from watching the sharemarket. On a happier note, it was a great relief to see Elliott Gould – surely The Establishment’s hairiest and most constant foe in the early nineteen seventies – in the trailer for Ruby Sparks, which, even if it’s a visit to Sundance Movie Hell, as per Lars and the Real Girl, will conceivably be some kind of advance on Gould’s 1986 situation comedy Together We Stand.
Take This Waltz concerns the problems of Margot (Michelle Williams) in being torn between her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), and a self-confessed artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby), who lives across the road from them – and, yes, when Margot visits Daniel at home for the first time, he certainly reveals himself to be Sensitive Mr Oil Paints. Also sprinkled into this impressive cast is Sarah Silverman, as Geraldine, Lou’s sister, a recovering alcoholic who seems to think that endless cracking wise about herself and her relationship with Señor Booze is an acceptable trade-off for the fact she has virtually no other topic of conversation. As it happens (SPOILER ALERT!), after a lot of chicken-based culinary work; a visit to some kind of amusement park; and some really embarrassing ‘talking dirty’ (in a public place, no less) – Margot and Daniel do become a couple, living in a warehouse apartment that looks almost exactly like the audition room that features in the climax of Flashdance. We see, through the benefit of a borderline-porno montage that, just as ended up happening with Margot and Lou, her and Daniel’s relationship gets to the point that they spend time silently watching TV together while she wears a pair of spectacles (something that would, for me, qualify as a pretty good first date).
Apparently, some women who have seen the film think Margot’s an awful person for doing what she does – namely, being unfaithful to, and ultimately abandoning, a husband who resembles an only slightly moody teddy bear, is devoted to her and, furthermore, is always slaving away in the kitchen, because he’s an author of cookbooks (about chicken, hence the compulsive roasting, and so forth, of these birds that is referred to above). Myself, I didn’t have any problem with Margot being unfaithful, I just couldn’t stand her as a person. I imagine that she is supposed to be adorable, with her whimsical outlook, blue toenails and collection of cute sundresses, but the difficulty is that she truly does deserve the electric chair for being irritating. Speaking of chairs, in one of the film’s earliest scenes, Margot is being pushed around in a wheelchair at an airport, and it is revealed, in her first deep conversation with Daniel, next to whom she is sitting on an aeroplane, that, no, she doesn’t suffer from authentic Glass Menagerie-style lameness. The problem is that she has – wait for it – a phobia about connections in airports, due to her dislike for being in limbo, which is why an airport employee has had to be put to the bother, first, of finding her a wheelchair and, second, pushing her arse about in it. (Let me tell you, I would have given everything I own to see Margot at the mercies of United Airlines.) Furthermore, during Margot’s and Daniel’s second lively natter, she describes herself to him as a person who sometimes wants to cry at the way a certain shaft of light falls on the pavement. And then, just when I thought things had got as bad as they could ever be, she tells him that, ambitions-wise – she ‘want(s) to write’. These are words that are always very annoying to hear, as what any person who says this needs to do is actually either write something or shut the fuck up about it; or, preferably, not write something and shut the fuck up about it. Literary aspirations aside, Margot seems to have an only slightly smaller piece of the mental-retardation pie than does Juliette Lewis in The Other Sister, although, from what I read, that character strives for independence and manages to move into an apartment.
Daniel gladly buys these colossal bunches of baloney from Margot, presumably because he’s almost as annoying as she is, a state of affairs that is not helped by the fact that he wears not only a horrible little neck chain but leather thongs around his wrist. Bizarrely, even though he makes a living by pulling a rickshaw(!), he apparently has no financial need to have a flatmate, which made me wonder long and hard about the price of real estate in Toronto. My irritato-meter was also shaking throughout the flick’s running time because Take This Waltz has the kind of comic relief that appears to have been devised by someone with little-to-no actual sense of humour: for example, Margot and Daniel first meet in a theme park; and there is a scene featuring water aerobics under the flamboyant instruction of a homosexual. Whenever anything like that took place, I wanted only to abandon Take This Waltz, strap myself into a time machine and be watching instead the 1981 Robert Hays vehicle Take This Job and Shove It.
The message I took from Waltz is that you are on a hiding to nothing if you keep desperately trying to fill the boring gaps in your life, as doing so is not only going to create trouble and heartache but actually produce more boring gaps, and you will just end up feeling sorry about everything for the rest of your life. While this message has some validity, I did think that, geez, Margot was only twenty-eight, for god’s sake, and so, presumably, had a lot of years left to her and really did need to take drastic action if she weren’t going to end up even more inert than she was already, given that she was a virtually pot plant, if a chatty, feyly gesticulating and snappily dressed one. The lesson I would prefer to see people taking away from Waltz is that getting married is almost always a stupid idea and should be outlawed for anyone under the age of thirty.
Speaking of people being sorry, though, I must say that I have been puzzled at Wendy Harmer receiving hosannahs right and left for apologising for having made jokes about Lindy Chamberlain, back in the nineteen freaking eighties. Now, I’m certainly prepared to admit that, for all I know, everyone except for me remembers Harmer’s routine about ‘Lindy Chamberlain The Musical’, and has been frantically waiting for her to address the matter ever after. However, I feel it’s just as likely that they don’t remember it all, and that L. Chamberlain herself probably had a good bit more on her mind back in the day, so what is the point of publicly bringing it up again this long after the fact – and, what’s more, at exactly the time that Chamberlain herself has, I would think, needed it least – except as a device for grabbing attention?
And then, on the opposite end of the apology spectrum, and speaking of attention-grabbing, we have had Catherine Deveny not being sorry for having wished ‘arse cancer’ upon one of her previous employers – with Deveny around, we certainly need never mourn that we do not live in the era of those famous wits who gathered about the Algonquin Round Table. This minor brouhaha led me to an epistle that Deveny composed last year but has only recently – in honour, I suspect, of the arse-cancer bizzo – posted on her website, and that must have taken a quite a while to read aloud in its entirety at the event for which it was devised. In it, she leaves us in no doubt that she is not sorry for anything she has ever done or said; approvingly, and extensively, quotes herself; and even gives us the news that her boyfriend calls her Princess Sparkle. Now, while I have a certain amount of sympathy for adherence to a no-regrets philosophy, I would also argue that there is an enormous amount to be said for making some kind of effort not to do comprehensively idiotic things in the first place.